The very art of horsemanship is in peril. Throughout the history of civilization, horses have played a key role in the progress of man. Sadly, with the advance of technology and machines, the use and commonness of horses in our lives has become less and less. Our connection with horses has become more distant, so much so that human lives intersecting with a horse now must be purposed. Today, many horseback riders simply show up and ride a horse that has been groomed, tacked up and cared for by someone else. True horsemen are becoming a rare breed.
This distance between horse and man means general familiarity with horses has become a thing of the past. The modern day cowboy or equestrian of today is mostly the result of being part of a community where horseback riding abounds and having the time and financial means to partake.
This was not the case even less than 100 years ago where horses intersecting human lives was more commonplace. Here are two stories of women who resonated with getting reconnected with horses. These stories take place while driving a horse carriage in San Luis Obispo. Sharon Jantzen reflects back on these special moments.
A Little Girl’s Dream
“Let’s go for a ride!” suggests my coworker Nancy who was enjoying Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo with her husband, Dave, and his mother and sister. The whole group climbed aboard. The mother was wheelchair-bound, however, she stepped out of the chair and it was folded up and placed in the carriage so she could sit unaided in the carriage seat.
We set out for a neighborhood ride. Dave kept the video tape rolling as I explained some of the neighborhood sights. The cold December air, combined with the Christmas lights on some of the homes, provided a festive holiday feeling.
“This is Buchon Street and many of these homes were built at the turn of the 20th century,” I began my tour . . .
“I don’t know the history of these homes, so I’ll just make it up! Let’s see . . . This is where Santa’s Elves are living for the Christmas Holiday. They are busy making toys for all the good girls and boys,” I narrate as everyone in the carriage is laughing.
We turn down Nipomo Street and head back to our starting point at Broad and Higuera. Dave and Nancy help his mother out of the carriage while his sister approaches me and says, “Sharon, some little girl’s dreams don’t come true until much later on in life. You have just helped one little girl’s dreams come true!” Dave’s mom had always desired to ride in a horse-drawn carriage. That night, I got to see one little girl’s dream come true.
A Moment of Reminiscing
Shasta, my favorite carriage horse, and I were making our way down to Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo to start our weekly escapade. As we turned down Toro Street an older woman was standing outside her home, aided by her cane.
“Hello,” she smiled and waved as we approached. “I used to drive carriages like these through this town.” I stopped Shasta to give the woman an opportunity to meet him. She made her way over, stabilizing herself with her cane each step she took.
“Oh my,” she exclaimed, “he’s so beautiful!” She patted Shasta gently on the nose as he turned to say hello to her.
“Yes,” she went on to say, “I remember taking my mother into town to see the doctor. We had a little buggy and the ride was so bumpy! Things sure have changed since then.”
After a few minutes of admiring Shasta, we were on our way again. The woman stepped back and waved with an expression reminiscent of days-gone-by on her face.
Excerpt from a soon to be published book: Carriage Capers – Magic Moments Leave Marks on our Hearts. Stories of a Horse Carriage Driver in San Luis Obispo County by Sharon J. Jantzen